Bridging the Digital (Veteran) Divide

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill to boost broadband access for veterans, saying they should not be left behind in the push for broadband adoption.

McNerney is a member of both the House Communications and Veterans Affairs subcommittees.

The bill, the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2016, would require the FCC to launch a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) into veterans' current access to broadband and what can be done to increase access.

Boosting that access could conceivably piggyback on current Universal Service Fund subsidies since McNerney's office says the NOI would focus on low income veterans and those in rural areas.

"Veterans, who fight tirelessly to protect our country, face many challenges when they return home. Not having internet access makes what is already an incredibly difficult transition process even harder,” said Rep. McNerney in announcing the bill.

The congressman cited a Pew Research study that found that less than half of those living below the poverty have broadband access at home. He also cited National Telecommunications & Information Administration figures showing rural adoption lags urban.

“It is critical that we find ways to ensure that the more than 1.4 million veterans living below the federal poverty level and the 5.3 million veterans residing in rural communities have broadband access,” he said. “By directing the FCC to examine current broadband access for veterans and what can be done to increase it, the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act will pave the way for getting more veterans online. By further directing the FCC to focus on veterans residing below the federal poverty line and in rural areas, my bill will help make sure these veterans are not left behind.”

Back in March, President Obama announced the ConnectALL initiative "to help Americans from across the country, at every income level, get online and have the tools to take full advantage of the Internet."

McNerney wants to make sure veterans get a seat at the keyboard or a spot in front of the mobile device.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.